Tag Archives: The Movies

The Transfiguration (Film) Review

Love, loss and vampires? Where do we sign, right?

*Spoilers*

The Transfiguration (2016)

IMDB Synopsis

When troubled teen Milo, who has a fascination with vampire lore, meets the equally alienated Sophie, the two form a bond that begins to blur Milo’s fantasy into reality.

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My Review

Milo (Eric Ruffin) is a weirdo, sorry but there it is. A loner in a lonely world, he sees a regular councilor and stares out of the window in class. He’s also obsessed with vampire folklore, with vamp literature and film – and lives at home with his brother Lewis (Aaron Moten).

The boys live unaccompanied as both their parents have shuffled off this mortal coil, their mother more recently by suicide. Lewis has stopped hanging with the local gang and he’s also been to prison, hence the turnaround. Now the boys for the most part live together in harmony, if you don’t count their endless financial strife, Milo’s secrets and the constant bullying he is forced to contend with. Plus Lewis does not seem to understand Milo and his persistent staring at all.

Milo, for the record is not just interested in vampire culture but is intent on becoming one. He pieces together his own book of ‘rules’ and a concept of what he considers ‘realistic’ vampire behaviour – and this sometimes takes him to a very dark place. Like the darkest place imaginable. Vampires, after all can’t function without bloodshed.

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When Sophie (Chloe Levine) shows up at Milo and Lewis’ apartment block to stay with her grandfather, she and the vampire-botherer quickly but tentatively develop a connection. Milo has no friends and spends the majority of his time alone so this new friendship is meaningful. Sophie has also lost both of her parents and is physically abused by her awful new guardian. Her escape is Milo and they bond over their traumatic lives, their sense of loss and Sophie’s self harm.

Milo shares his favourite vampire movies with Sophie and she tries to get him to read Twilight, something he’s reluctant to do since he doesn’t think it will fit in with his picture of what vampires really are (e.g. sparkly vampires seem just that one step too far). Also, don’t do it Milo, it’s unbearable.

As the friendship deepens, so does Milo’s desire to turn himself. He’s dappled in the past. In fact, the film opens with a little neck sucking action which is so matter of fact it’s almost forgettable. When Milo leads a white tourist into a dangerous situation that ends in the worst possible way, he finds himself on the wrong side of the neighbourhood gang, the very same dudes who taunt him with names and enjoy roughing him up.

How is all this going to pan out for our anti-hero and his new love interest? Will the boys ever escape the grasp of their less-than-stellar environment? And will Milo be successful in his quest to become a modern-day Dracula? Only one way to find out!

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My Thoughts

Well, I think this film is actually great in many ways but isn’t the most pleasant viewing experience. There are a lot of loaded stares and extended silences and although they have meaning, that isn’t always the most comfortable watch. Lewis seems to despair of his brother when he actually just looks like he could do with a hug but Milo doesn’t help himself with his bizarre behaviour.

Milo’s fantasies could well be a symptom of his unprocessed grief, especially as we learn that he found his mother’s body after she had slashed her own wrists. Although, the fact that he tastes her blood as it congeals is also a cause for concern and might suggest that he already had a macabre obsession with the undead before all this happened.

The Transfiguration is good-looking and quite a fresh take on the vampire sub-genre. The film is soaked with sadness and the feeling of loss permeates everything. The fact that we rarely meet an adult character adds to the sense of neglect and it does feel as though nobody really cares about anybody (a metaphor for the lower classes?). Milo’s loneliness hangs heavy and while a lot of his behaviour is seriously dubious (in one scene he slaughters a child), it’s hard not to feel for him.

The ending is pretty crushing too, a brutal comment on the flimsiness of life and I can’t deny it’s stayed with me ever since I saw it on Sunday. Personally I also seriously enjoyed all Milo’s referencing of classic vamp movies, from Nosferatu to Near Dark and Let the Right One In. Kid’s got fine taste, there’s no question there.

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My Rating

3.5/5.

What does my vampire queen think of this bad boy? Would she turn it in a heartbeat or leave in on the street like yesterday’s news? Find out here.

Office (Film) Review

May-hem month seems to be leaning towards Asia Extreme movies so far and I for one am here for it. While this week’s pick is nowhere near as bat shit crazy as the last, it’s still pretty out there in terms of premise and delivery. There’s a strong moral to the movie too which I’ll address but for now, my thoughts.

*Spoilers*

Office (2015)

IMDB Synopsis

The investigation following a sales manager brutally killing his entire family leads to a track of mystery and tragedy in an overwhelmed work team at Seul.

My Review

Lee Mi-Rye (Ko Asung) is a hard-working intern hoping to be made permanent in a big sales firm in Seoul, South Korea. As with so many big companies, she’s treated like a pack-horse and given very little recognition in return, which I’ll go into in just a moment. First I should mention that the film begins with Mr Kim, an employee at the same firm. As the movie opens we witness Kim return home from work, eat a nice meal and then slaughter his entire family, child and all, with a hammer. What’s wrong with After Eight Mints is what I want to know?

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Stop. Hamm… no I can’t. Too much.

Back at the office, the police are going through the staff one by one trying to work out a) why this happened and b) where Kim is now he’s at large. It soon becomes apparent to Detective Jong-Hoon (Sung-woong Park) that the staff are all hiding something.

Back to Mi-Rye. As soon as the police turn up, Mi-Rye is briefed by her colleagues to pretend that she didn’t know Kim very well. She plays along at first because she’s eager to please. However, Jong-Hoon soon sees through her and learns that actually she was quite close to him. Mi-Rye explains that he was the only person nice to her when she started.

The rest of her colleagues are absolute bastards to her actually and this only gets worse when their big boss Kim Sang-Gyu (Eui-sung Kim) hires a second intern. This pits the girls against each other and has Mi-Rye’s colleagues comparing her unfavourably to the new girl.

Meanwhile, the cops work out via CCTV that after the murders, Kim returned to the office and was not seen leaving. This suggests he’s still in the building! EEEK. This theory is further reinforced by the fact that Kim (and Mi-Rye’s) colleagues start to turn up dead in wonderfully gruesome ways.

All this is set against the backdrop of an overworked and under-valued work force who are being worked to the bone by their overbearing and demanding boss. Who reams them out in front of everyone else in the department which is probably the scariest thing about this thriller/horror – and my worst nightmare.

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Will we find out what pushed Kim over the edge? What are the others hiding? And is Mi-Rye okay, hun?

While I want to do a decent job of reviewing this I don’t want to give away every nuance of the plot. It is quite hard to keep a track of and the end is quite ambiguous, although AWESOME.

My Thoughts

Office was actually really compelling. I was all in from the get go, even though it does have a habit of flipping you backwards into a flashback without much fanfare. A couple of times, even though I was concentrating I had to rewind to understand a scene. I’m not afraid to admit that I also found a Reddit forum discussing the film and read that cover to cover to help me understand a couple of points.

The performances were good, the set up is great and there’s something so relateable about the setting of an office, since I personally spend so much time in one. As Mi-Rye learns what her colleagues really think of her, via the old-school medium of hiding behind pillars and eavesdropping, I could feel her distress and paranoia bubbling over.

Korean cinema is my favourite and although this doesn’t have the impact of Old Boy or Memories of Murder (to name but a few shit hot examples), it’s not bad at all. I like its creepy tone and enjoyed unraveling the plot. I also really found myself rooting for Mi-Rye who has the look of a rabbit caught in headlights for most of the film.

And the aforementioned moral of the story – and potential *Spoiler* – be nicer to your interns, fuckers.

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My Rating

3.5/5.

What did Jill think of this one? Would stay late to work on it or fire it? Find out here.

Tag (Film) Review

This month is May-hem Month (see what Jill did there?!) and we start off with quite the bang. I’m not sure if that’s in a good way either because I am still trying to work out what the fuck happened. So without further ado, let’s get down and dirty with our first May-hem pick!

Tag (2015)

IMDB Synopsis

A girl’s life cascades into chaos as everyone around her suffers a gruesome fate while she herself becomes less and less certain of who she is and what kind of a world she lives in.

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My Review

WTF was a common phrase running through my head as I watched this. I have little to no understanding of what happened which actually doesn’t matter that much as it adds to the general vibe of what our main character Mitsuko is going through. I’ll try my best to elaborate anyway.

Mitsuko (Reina Triendl) appears to be a sensitive soul, writing poetry and being less abrasive than her classmates (in short, there’s something special about her, bear that it mind). On a school trip, our heroine narrowly escapes a bloody and inexplicable fate. (Like the most creative death scene since Ghost Ship (2002) – it is immense!).

Killer wind, anyone?

Dazed and confused but very much alive, Mitsuko immediately stumbles from the scene of the accident into a (different) school where her peers all seem to recognise her – but she’s got no clue if she’s a student there, who she is, who they are. Bemused by her sudden flakiness, her friends – Aki, Taeko and Sur – make her cut class and they all end up in the woods. Whilst there, Mitsuko outlines what happened on the bus (killer wind, sliced up bodies, all that jazz) – and puts it down to being a bad dream.

This leads to an existential discussion about parallel timelines and alternate worlds lead by Sur (short for ‘Surreal’) – who philosophises that to avoid a horrible fate and set the world back in motion, Misuko just has to do something completely unexpected (honestly, I got lost here but there is a giant crocodile dream sequence which is pretty glorious).

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When the girls return to their classrooms, they are torn down by homicidal teachers with machine guns (and I thought Catholic school was heavy). All but Mitsuko are slaughtered where they stand. From here we flip and flop into an exploration of these alternate universes, as Mitsuko becomes Keiko and Izumi (played by different actresses so very confusing). Her alternates are a bride betrothed to a boar headed man (been there) and a marathon runner.

(You with me?) LOL.

Mitsuko keeps on meeting the same group of girlfriends who are either friend or foe in these realities – but they generally end up killed in the most OTT ways imaginable. Always constant however is Aki, who pops up to support or gee up Mitsuko/Keiko/Izumi along the way. At one point she tells Mitsuko that she might be these other two characters in different lives but at the core she will always be Mitsuko.

Aki also explains to Mitsuko that in order to stop the cycle of all her friends being slaughtered in every reality, she needs to die. Later there’s a convoluted thread about all this being a computer game with Mitsuko as the main character, some stolen DNA and a sinister as all fuck shrine to all her dead classmates.

I guess the final point here is, will Mitsuko make the ultimate sacrifice to save her friends?

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My Thoughts

Apart from the gore there isn’t an awful lot to engage me here – which is ludicrous because on paper this is the most me film you can think of. However, I just didn’t connect with it at all. I loved the killings and the fantasy/horror element of everything but the plot is just too incoherent for me to keep up. I’ve read through the Wiki synopsis a few times and I’m still confuddled.

I do like what it’s supposedly saying about the ‘boys club’ and how everything is run by a bunch of sad and pervy little boys and I would have liked more of an exploration of that. It would have been amazing to have seen Mitsuko fuck up the patriarchy – but it is refreshing to watch a movie run by so many females.

In tone it reminds me of a film called The Machine Girl (2008) – which dials up the blood and goo but doesn’t deliver much else. Again, believe me I’m as surprised as anyone that this sub genre doesn’t seem to be for me.

My Rating

Sorry, but 1.5/5.

What did Jill make of this one? Would she leave it outside in the killer wind or follow it through parallel universes for lyfe. Find out here.

God’s Own Country (Film) Review

Here at Collab HQ (it’s more of a state of mind than an actual place given that we’re camped on separate continents), we love to devastate ourselves. Sometimes we favour fluff just to get over the utter weep-fests we’ve put ourselves through.

Although this week’s movie might not have had that exact effect on me, it did leave me with a heavy lump in my chest. It was a movie I felt profoundly and I’m so glad we finally got round to it. Thank you Netflix for coming through.

*Spoilers*

God’s Own Country (2017)

IMDB Synopsis

Spring. Yorkshire. Young farmer Johnny Saxby numbs his daily frustrations with binge drinking and casual sex, until the arrival of a Romanian migrant worker for lambing season ignites an intense relationship that sets Johnny on a new path.

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My Review

Johnny (Josh O’Connor) lives with his dad and gran on a cattle farm in Yorkshire. Rural life is fucking tough, his father isn’t that well and Johnny dulls his pain and loneliness with booze and secret liaisons with boys down the local (I feel ya, Johnny). Delivered home puking most nights by furious cab drivers, Johnny’s folks just think he’s irresponsible and don’t understand him at all. This just exacerbates his feeling of isolation and when he does bump into friends from his past, he’s bitter because they’ve moved on and left him behind.

When it becomes apparent that the farm will need more help during lambing season, they hire Romanian migrant worker Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu) who quickly becomes a god send, much to Johnny’s irritation. The pair doesn’t hit it off immediately and Johnny burns bridges in the first few days by referring to Gheorghe as ‘gyppo’.

While Gheorghe pretty much just gets on with it, even around the awkward energy between Johnny and his family, he doesn’t take kindly to Johnny’s racist attitude and nips it in the bud quickly. One weekend, away from the farm but very much on farming duties, the boys come head to head and the friction that’s been building between them explodes. What begins with a fight, ends in rough sex in the mud.

After this encounter, the two barely speak about it though there has been an unmistakable shift between them. Later that night, they fuck again, this time with a little more tenderness.

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Back at the ranch, the sex continues but it also becomes more than that. Johnny invites his lover to share his bed in the farmhouse but he declines, preferring to stay in the caravan.

As Johnny and Gheorghe get closer, Johnny’s father suffers another stroke and the future of the farm is placed in Johnny’s calloused hands. When he discusses the prospect of Gheorghe staying on and permanently running the farm with him, Gheorghe expresses some concerns, namely living and working together simultaneously.

This sends Johnny into a tailspin and he acts out enough to send Gheorghe packing. Gheorghe also suffers some predjudice in the pub which doesn’t help.

Johnny’s nan Deidre (Gemma Jones) blames him for fucking up again and wonders how they’ll manage now. When Johnny goes to see his father about the future, he’s surprisingly understanding and gives his blessing for Johnny to do what he needs to to be happy – can you guess what that is?

Will Johnny do the right thing and make a success of his future finally? What do you think?

This film is gorgeous to look at but it’s all in the glances our lovers share, in the secret looks and the slightest of gestures. It’s in the loneliness, the isolation and the ache of not being able to be open to who they are – until they can be open with each other and I really felt it all.

The performances are heartfelt, while the pace of the film is quite slow which I didn’t mind. Not once did this feel like a slog and I think there’s a skill in that kind of film making. The movie very subtley addresses the topic of homophobia but more so in the fact that it isn’t talked about and everything has to be secret. While I don’t remember any out and out prejudice, this is only because Johnny’s not out publicly.

It was heart-warming to learn that perhaps Johnny’s family knew more than he thought about his ‘secret’ and that in their own sweet way they just wanted what was best for him. As for Gheorghe, we get little insight into his own life in Romania, something I would have liked but I understand wasn’t strictly necessary.

All in all this is a nice love story that felt authentic – and yes, it almost finished me.

My Rating

4.5/5.

What did my love think of this one? Would she take it down the local for a fumble or toss it out with the cold bath water? Find out here of course.

Motivated May

I am hereby renaming this coming month Motivated May and vow to post at least three times a week for the month.

I have so many book reviews and half-completed drafts in my folder that I’d love to finally publish – plus, it won’t hurt me to have a think about the posts I write for a while. Film reviews are great and I love doing them with Jill but I have more in me, I swear.

In other news, I’ve started a film blog over at Thursday Night at the Movies where I talk solely about films I’ve seen in the cinema. It’s going pretty well and encouraging me to go to the theater as much as possible and see things I might not normally. Have a glance, if you’re into it.

So, a busy month ahead, which is good because I’m never happier than when I’m watching movies, blogging and podcasting.

See you soon!

East Side Sushi (Film) Review

As a die-hard fan of grittier movies, it is sometimes nice just to tune into something gentle and pure. This movie is a marvel in its simple plodding but also evil because now I can’t stop thinking about crispy salmon skin and california rolls.

*Spoilers*

East Side Sushi (2014)

IMDB Synopsis

Single mom Juana can slice and dice anything with great speed and precision. After working at a fruit-vending cart for years, she decides to take a job at a local Japanese restaurant. Intrigued by the food, she learns to make a multitude of sushi on her own. Eventually she attempts to become a sushi chef, but is unable to because she is the ‘wrong’ race and gender.

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My Review

Juana (Diana Elizabeth Torres) hasn’t exactly got it easy as a single mother living in Oakland, Cali. She lives with her widowed pop and daughter in modest surroundings, forever trying to make those pesky ends meet with a series of jobs that amount to little. One of those jobs is running a fruit cart which one evening gets held up at gunpoint.

Majorly fucked off and tired, not only of the injustice of being robbed but also of the shitty part-time hours she’s scrabbling around for at a gym, Juana takes a chance on a Help Wanted sign in the window of a Japanese restaurant, Osaka. Due to her extensive kitchen experience, Mexican Juana is quickly offered an interview but her pop is a little wary of his daughter taking this direction. Why would she want to work with Japanese food? And what will she bring home after her shifts?

Uh, only the best food ever invented, Dad. No biggie.

Regardless of this mild negativity, Juana gets stuck in and finds that she really takes to it like a duck to… a Japanese dish? Juana falls not only in love with the cuisine itself but with the challenge of getting really fucking good at making it. There might even be a spark between her and Aki, the head chef (Yutaka Takeuchi) who is infinitely patient and also pleasingly impressed with everything she does.

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Unfortunately, the restaurants big boss Mr. Yoshida (Roji Oyama) isn’t stoked about Juana having ideas above her station because she is Mexican but I suspect more so because she is a WOMAN. He bans her from being out front, insistent that she was hired to work the kitchen and in the kitchen she will stay, away from the actual sushi cheffing action. Even though she’s bloody good and the restaurant has started serving several of the fusion dishes she has invented.

Nothing Juana says or does will swerve Mr. Yoshida’s traditional way of thinking, even when Aki gets involved. Especially when some of his (male) customers make comments about keeping the restaurant authentic. In the end, Juana loses her cool and quits the job. She also applies to be a finalist on reality TV show Champions of Sushi. Can you see where this is going?

Will our determined young sushi ingénue win the competition and therefore get offered her rightful place behind the sushi bar at Osaka or what? Will she flip one sticky rice covered middle finger up at the patriarchy at the same time?

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My Thoughts

Although this movie might not set your world alight, it is a pleasant way to spend a Sunday afternoon and if I’m honest, there was something really satisfying about it. It would definitely fit well into Feminist February because Juana is a dreamy character with an impressive work ethic and a thirst for learning who takes on the stuffy ideals of her boss head on. She doesn’t quit and isn’t afraid to follow her dreams and I frankly loved her for it.

An aside but this film in its themes reminded me a little bit of The Ramen Girl. In it, an American girl (Brittany Murphy) gets stranded in Tokyo and ends up training to be a râmen chef. It’s lovely and I recommend that too. 

Juana is played by the beautiful Diana Elizabeth Torres who brings such a warmth to her character, and although there are no bodices being ripped or sexy times going down in the kitchen, there’s something good and genuine about the chemistry she shares with Aki. You root for them to get it on but it’s all implied and I liked that too. Juana’s true love is being a sushi chef and everything else is secondary.

I did find myself a little bit annoyed by her stubborn father at times but his reluctance to embrace a new culture did lead to the concept of tailoring traditional Japanese dishes to his very Mexican tastes and thus was the secret to Juana’s success.

Good pick, Jill.

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My Rating

3.5/5. I’m starving. 

What did Jillian think of this one? Would she order it up by the plate load or sack it on the spot? Find out here.

Hurricane Bianca (Film) Review

… or If You Can’t Love Yourself, How in the Hell Are You Gonna Love Anybody Else?

This week’s pick is mine and *disclaimer* it is self-servicing AF. As a disciple of Ru Paul’s Drag Race (and let me tell you, there’s nothing more extra than a new convert), of course I was going to get round to reviewing Hurricane Bianca eventually.

So without further fanfare, let’s get lost in Bianca Del Rio‘s world.

*Spoilers*

Hurricane Bianca (2016)

IMDB Synopsis

A New York teacher, who moves to small town Texas where he’s fired for being gay, returns disguised as a mean lady to get revenge on the nasty town.

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My Review

Poor old Richard (Roy Haylock) is having a shitty time of it. His teaching career isn’t exactly molding the future of the next generation, while his part-time entertainment gig has just crashed and burnt to the ground. His best friends Bailey (Willam Belli) and Stephen (D.J. ‘Shangela’ Pierce) love him dearly and are willing to bail him out but he’s had enough.

When he’s offered a teaching role in small town Texas, Richard packs up and leaves the Big Apple hopeful of a fresh start. Well, a new beginning is exactly what he gets but not quite in the ways he expects. For a start, the kids in his class are all arseholes. The halls are terrorised by mean bitch Deborah Ward (Rachel Dratch) and her fake ho daughter Carly – and the locals aren’t exactly welcoming either. Guess the school just isn’t ready for a gay chemistry teacher, eh?

Luckily for Richard he quickly meets kind-hearted radio DJ Karma Johnstone (Bianca Leigh), a trans woman who understands him only too well. She introduces him to the town’s LGBT community and when he is outed by the locals and subsequently fired for being homosexual, an idea is born.

Richard returns to the classroom as fierce bitch Bianca Del Rio (nobody knows she’s Richard in drag) – and boy are things about to change.

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Let me make something very clear TO YOU, Debbie. I’m fuckin’ this cat. You just hold the legs. ~ Bianca Del Rio

Bianca takes no prisoners and quickly makes an impression on the school, in more ways than one. She has a sharp tongue and a wicked way with words, plus she tells everyone that Cher is her cousin and Gaga is her best friend so they’ll like her.

There’s a loose story line about a mystery female teacher taking male students’ virginity and a Teacher of the Year competition but really this is a showcase for Bianca’s one liners as she licks her students into shape, tackles in-class bullying and tries to help her new BFF Karma with her family issues. All the while taking down that awful c**t Deborah.

Hurricane Bianca isn’t by any means a perfect movie but it is fun and I think Bianca Del Rio has real stage presence – and those dimples! While it could be funnier, there’s enough in it to make you want to watch and in the end its message is a good (if simplistic) one. Evil will not win and small-mindedness will not to be accepted.

At times it does turn very dark (Richard/Bianca is kidnapped by a bigoted neighbour) and that’s not an easy watch. Luckily in this instance it doesn’t come to anything more sinister but it probably does play quite close to the bone.

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The appearances by Del Rio’s fellow queens are joyful though. I’m a big fan of Shangela and loved seeing her on-screen. Alyssa Edwards is also wonderful as Ambrosia Salad. They might not be the most seasoned actresses but I don’t care, I want more Drag Queen movies please!

My Rating

3.5/5.

What does my QWEEN Jill think of Bianca? Would she leave her out in unstable weather or award her Drag Queen of the Year? Find out here.